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There has been a lot of talk, mostly among Republicans in this state, about “crossover” voting.
The concern is that Democrats will “cross over” to vote in the Republican primary in order to skew the results in a way that, I guess, would be favorable to them.
Unfortunately for the Alabama GOP, you really can’t “cross over” in a regular primary, because the state does not require voters to register as either a Republican or a Democrat, so realistically there is no way of knowing who might be voting Republican that might prefer a Democrat candidate.
Let’s be honest: how do you know that someone hasn’t simply changed their minds, the way so many of our Democrat-turned-Republican political leaders have done in this state over the last two decades?
But I understand the frustration by Republicans. A Republican primary is, in theory, a chance for Republicans to select their Republican candidate. Having “outsiders” vote in the primary can dilute the so-called “purity” of the Republican movement.
And in this era when nobody loses, we’ve already heard Republican candidates who lose an election blaming it on “crossover” voting.
Of course, you could argue that “crossover” voting would not be a concern in this state if enough Republicans actually got out and voted. The turnout in the May primary was right around 24% of registered voters; the turnout for the June 21 runoff may turn out to be less than half that number. (Early reports are that turnout was around 12%.)
There aren’t enough Democrats in this state to affect the outcome of a primary if Republicans showed up and voted in full force.
That’s because, practically speaking, Alabama is a one-party state.
While that may sound good if you are in the party in power, you may want to rethink that position.
Because if I was a Democrat in this state, knowing my candidate had little chance of being elected to a statewide office, why wouldn’t I vote for the Republican I found to be most aligned with my point of view? We are supposed to have a representative form of government, and if a Democrat wants to be represented in this state, either in Montgomery or Washington D.C., with the exception of the 7th Congressional District, a Democrat would be better served to vote Republican and at least have a chance of being represented by - perhaps from their point of view - the least objectional candidate.
One of the problems with being in a one-party state, regardless of which party is in control, is that to win that party’s primary, you almost have to convince people you are a more rabid party idealogue than your opponent.
In simpler terms, if you are a Republican running for office in this state, your best chance to be elected is to run further to the political right than your opponent. The same is true if you are running against Representative Terri Sewell, a Democrat, in the 7th District; to beat Sewell, you likely need to run further to the political left.
But is that truly representative government? Shouldn’t candidates run to represent as many people as possible? Doesn’t that mean they should be running a campaign to try to earn not just hard-core Republican or Democrat votes but also those who are just right (or left) of center? Maybe even appeal to those folks who might consider themselves members of the other party but who don’t want a candidate who caters to the extreme?
After all, according to a recent Gallup poll, more Americans identified in 2021 as independent (42%) than Democrats (29%) or Republicans (27%). Whoever captures the independent vote generally wins the election.
Ah, but that’s not what the Republican or Democrat officials want. The party faithful demand a demonstrable commitment to the extremes of the Party, and anything less makes you a “RINO” (Republican in name only) or, less frequently heard in Alabama but still prominent in other parts of the country, a DINO (Democrat in name only).
They want a ‘purity’ test. Try to define purity, however, and you end up with something resembling former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s famous statement when asked to explain pornography: “I know it when I see it.”
This rigid loyalty test is obliterating the common ground where compromises achieve progress, and like it or not, our system of government was built to require compromise, to hear opposing voices. Otherwise, we end up spinning uselessly in a quagmire of extremes where people cling to their fear and anger.
And then wonder why the country is so divided.
Ray Melick is Editor-in-Chief of 1819 News. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com .
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